Throughout history, no model for conflict has reeked as much havoc and bad blood as the north/south paradigm. The Union had the Confederacy, the Cubs have the White Sox, polar bears have penguins, and within our own city, North and South Irvington have been waging a feud for the ages. South Irvington, or SoIrv, celebrates itself as a hotbed of cultural, historical, and educational significance. And it’s true, the southside of the neighborhood does have the majority of historical landmarks. One only need go on the haunted tour in October to see that most of the haunted houses are south of Washington Street. And just recently I wrote about the quaint hamlet, and all it has to offer: the Irving Circle, the former grounds of Butler University, the Benton House. But damnit, I grew up in NoIrv, and I’ll be damned to let SoIrv win this battle without a fight.
It was eleven o’clock one Saturday morning that I woke up at my parents’ residence. My trusty pooch, Finn, was getting rowdy, so I threw on some presentable clothes, leashed her up, and headed out for a nice peregrination about town. North Irvington is located on the city’s eastside, north of Washington Street, between Ritter and Arlington, and south of Tenth Street. The quiet neighborhood is a nice hodge podge of bungalows, craftsman, and foursquares, along with the odd Italianate and Victorian home. For the most part, the houses are newer than their southern counterparts, but one still comes across more than a handful impressive works of turn-of-the-century architecture.
Not to throw in a non sequitur, but I think it might be appropriate to come clean about something. To wit, if there’s an Achilles heel to writing a column about walking it’s that the act of walking is mundane and quotidian, and therefore not all that exciting to write about. Furthermore, writing about my walks requires me to write about them post-facto. In this case it’s been about a month and a half. And sure the essence of poetry, as according to Wordsworth, is the “spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility,” but honestly, I don’t think I can recollect that much about that cloudy day in mid-March, or whatever the weather was. Fortunately, I am rescued from my irresponsibility by the countless walks I took through NoIrv as an angsty teenager, my “adequate” skills as a writer (trust me, on a good day, my writing could easily pass as a lesser work by a talented creative writing undergrad), and of course, the internet. Thank god for the internet.
Embarking from my parents’ abode, Finn and I jaunted down to Washington Street to take in all the glory of early Spring. The trees were still largely bare, save for the scraggly silver maples with their budding red flowers, and the breeze still had it’s cool biting edge. But the birds were chirping and all the city’s tiny mammalian denizens were digging out of their wintertime hovels and dens. I, for my own personal rite of Spring, broke out the shorts, and fought off the chill with the old maxim that “you’ve gotta dress for the weather you want, not the weather you have.”
I briefly considered walking into the Starbucks at Audubon and Washington for a coffee, but turned away because I didn’t want to run into any old co-workers, who would undoubtedly remember me for the shiftless, awkward teenager working his first job. I barely made it half a year, and was largely confined to dishwashing detail due to a penchant for alienating customers and continually forgetting how to make a caramel machiatto. Was it made with caramel syrup or vanilla syrup? And if it’s made with vanilla syrup, then why the hell is it called a “caramel” machiatto? I also didn’t know their policy on bringing dogs inside.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.irvingtonhistorical.org
So we forewent my caffeine fix and continued east. Perhaps it’s the wisdom and lethargy of old age setting in, or maybe just a case of typhus or whatever horrible illness she seems to contract every other week from drinking nasty water on our walks, but Finn seemed altogether well composed today as we passed the other pedestrians and their canine compatriots. This pleasant quality to her demeanor allowed me to fully appreciate the delightfully intoxicating smells of Washington Street: fresh pizza from Jockamo’s, strong beer from Black Acre Brewing Company, exhaust from passing traffic. I was simply about to swoon from the sensory overload! Or at least take respite with a pint from Black Acre. But again, I didn’t know their dog policy. I should of course note that all of Irvington’s many establishments are worthy of your curiosity, if not patronage.
We continued east, passing the various shops along the strip, before we reached Layman Avenue and headed north. We meandered through the quiet, breezy streets, admiring the quaint architecture, appreciating the landscaping in anticipation of its spring grandeur, and reciprocating the overall pleasantness of Irvingtonians.
Before heading back home, we a made a stop at Ellenberger Park. I let Finn off her leash so she could run around inside the gated the tennis courts. I sat down to soak it all in and reflect on the significance this area holds for me. Before being sold to the city, the land where the park now sits had been farmland. The former landowner, John Ellenberger, was known within the Irvington community for his civic mindedness and generosity, allowing members of the neighborhood to use his land for recreation. To this day that this sense of community and its legacy is alive and well. The park was a little slow today, but in a few months, the pool will be opening, the field’s will be swarmed with baseball, football, and soccer practices, and the air will be filled with the smell of barbecue. It’s reassuring to know that all these things will continue on, regardless of whether or not I am actually there to see it.
Photo Courtesy of http://vintageirvington.blogspot.com/
Written by: Kevin Schmoll